It is time for visa on arrival for tourists between Myanmar and India


An Indian vendor bringing goods from Myanmar through Indo-Myanmar friendship gate in Moreh in the Tengnoupal district of Manipur state, India. Photo: EPA

Myanmar sits at a strategic crossroads of Asia, connecting the Indian sub-continent with East and Southeast Asia. It stands to be a meeting point for the various peoples of Asia, linking shared cultures, history and values. Accordingly, it only makes sense that Myanmar should do everything possible to facilitate the people to people interaction so important for the growth of this dynamic region of the world. And it is partly for this reason that we strongly believe Myanmar and India should establish reciprocative visa on arrival policies for tourists.

India, the land of Buddha, and Myanmar, with its pagoda studded landscape, share an over 1,500-kilometer undisputed land border. The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) predicts that Indian travel abroad will double by 2020 to an estimated 50 million outbound tourists – making India one of the largest outbound travel markets in the world. Meanwhile, outbound travel for Myanmar citizens has been projected at 1.7 million trips by 2021, compared to a mere 1 million trips in 2016.

As these numbers continue to climb, it only makes sense that Myanmar and India should make concerted efforts to project their respective countries as tourist destinations for their friendly neighbors.

India, a country of nearly 1.3 billion people, is the world’s third largest economy. There are an estimated 350 million middle class Indians, a figure poised to increase as the Indian economy grows. And, coupled with rising personal income levels and changing lifestyles, these people are more likely to travel abroad for holiday. Not to mention that the average Indian traveler spends some $1,200, a sum higher than tourists from either the US or Britain.

Meanwhile, a recent Asian Development Bank (ADB) reports finds that “Myanmar’s economy is projected to stay on a steady growth path over the next two years, supported by economic reforms, strong global growth, and higher foreign direct investment flows.” The report further estimates the Myanmar economy to grow at a 7.2 per cent clip for the fiscal year ending September 2019. And similar to India, a growing middle class among Myanmar’s 54 million citizens bodes well for more Myanmar citizens being able to travel abroad, and especially with regard to regional tourism.

Briefly returning to Indian tourism trends, according to official statistics, 28,567 Indians visited Myanmar during the first 8 months of 2018, a 5 per cent increase over the same period for the previous year. These figures put the number of Indian tourist arrivals to Myanmar on par with those from Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia. Though, as previously noted, there is the potential for a huge uptick in the number of Indian arrivals owing to the sheer size of the country and its growing wealth.

A month wise break up (given below) indicates that even during the lean tourist season (May-Sept, 2018), an average of 3500 Indians have been visiting Myanmar.

Jan

Feb

Mar

April

May

June

July

Aug

 

3925

 

3307

 

3609

 

3629

 

3979

 

3199

 

3676

 

3243

Finally, while it is welcome that Indian business persons can avail themselves of visa on arrival services in Myanmar, it is time to extend this facility to Indian tourists in line with tourists from other Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan. And India should reciprocate in kind.

Whether it is adventure, niche tourism or even as a wedding destination, Myanmar and India have an abundance to offer tourists from their friendly neighbors.

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